Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gulf of Mexico has greater-than-believed ability to self-cleanse oil spills

Date:
April 8, 2013
Source:
American Chemical Society (ACS)
Summary:
The Gulf of Mexico may have a much greater natural ability to self-clean oil spills than previously believed, an expert in bioremediation has said.

Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill The Gulf of Mexico may have a greater-than- believed ability to self-cleanse oil spills, like the one resulting from the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Credit: NOAA

The Gulf of Mexico may have a much greater natural ability to self-clean oil spills than previously believed, an expert in bioremediation said on April 8 in New Orleans at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Related Articles


Terry C. Hazen, Ph.D., said that conclusion has emerged from research following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which by some estimates spilled 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. His research team used a powerful new approach for identifying microbes in the environment to discover previously unknown bacteria, naturally present in the Gulf water, that consume and break down crude oil.

"The Deepwater Horizon oil provided a new source of nutrients in the deepest waters," explained Hazen, who is with the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "With more food present in the water, there was a population explosion among those bacteria already adapted to using oil as a food source. It was surprising how fast they consumed the oil. In some locations, it took only one day for them to reduce a gallon of oil to a half gallon. In others, the half-life for a given quantity of spilled oil was 6 days. This data suggests that a great potential for intrinsic bioremediation of oil plumes exists in the deep sea and other environs in the Gulf of Mexico."

Hazen spoke at a symposium, "Environmental Fate of Petroleum Oils and Dispersants in the Marine Environment," that included other reports relating to the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Oil-eating bacteria are natural inhabitants of the Gulf because of the constant supply of food. Scientists know that there are more than 600 different areas where oil oozes from rocks underlying the Gulf of Mexico. These oil seeps, much like underwater springs, release 560,000-1.4 million barrels of oil annually, according to the National Research Council.

Hazen's team used a powerful new approach for identifying previously recognized kinds of oil-eating bacteria that contributed to the natural clean-up of the Deepwater Horizon spill. In the past, scientists identified microbes by putting samples of water into laboratory culture dishes, waiting for microbes to grow and then using a microscope to identify the microbes. The new approach, called "ecogenomics," uses genetic and other analyses of the DNA, proteins and other footprints of bacteria to provide a more detailed picture of microbial life in the water.

"The bottom line from this research may be that the Gulf of Mexico is more resilient and better able to recover from oil spills than anyone thought," Hazen said. "It shows that we may not need the kinds of heroic measures proposed after the Deepwater Horizon spill, like adding nutrients to speed up the growth of bacteria that breakdown oil, or using genetically engineered bacteria. The Gulf has a broad base of natural bacteria, and they respond to the presence of oil by multiplying quite rapidly."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society (ACS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society (ACS). "Gulf of Mexico has greater-than-believed ability to self-cleanse oil spills." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408152733.htm>.
American Chemical Society (ACS). (2013, April 8). Gulf of Mexico has greater-than-believed ability to self-cleanse oil spills. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408152733.htm
American Chemical Society (ACS). "Gulf of Mexico has greater-than-believed ability to self-cleanse oil spills." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408152733.htm (accessed April 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dispute Flares Over Controversial Thai Temple Tigers

Dispute Flares Over Controversial Thai Temple Tigers

AFP (Apr. 24, 2015) Thai wildlife officials begin a headcount of nearly 150 tigers kept by monks at a temple which has become the centre of a dispute over the welfare of the animals. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Volcano Under Yellowstone Is Way Bigger Than We Thought

The Volcano Under Yellowstone Is Way Bigger Than We Thought

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2015) Researchers have discovered a second and larger magma reservoir under Yellowstone National Park, but say the risk of a large eruption is the same. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chile Volcano Cloud Spreads

Chile Volcano Cloud Spreads

Reuters - News Video Online (Apr. 24, 2015) Southern Argentina struggles to cope with a blanket of ash after the eruption of the Calbuco volcano in Chile. Rough cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Evacuate As Chile Volcano Erupts Twice In 24 Hours

Thousands Evacuate As Chile Volcano Erupts Twice In 24 Hours

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2015) Chile&apos;s Calbuco volcano erupted twice in a span of 24 hours, once Wednesday evening and again early Thursday morning. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins